A Catch-Up With our Associate Director Graeme Bews

A Catch-Up with Associate Director – Planning & Urban Design  Graeme Bews

With over 20 years in the urban development arena, Graeme’s extensive experience includes urban design and managing the development approval process for a wide range of development projects across the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay region, Central Queensland & the Northern Territory.

As Planning & Urban Design Manager at our Sunshine Coast office, Graeme has been a thought-leader advising on an array of issues critical to the future of the Sunshine Coast community and recently received a UDIA Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to the region.  Committed to JFP’s multi-disciplinary approach to urban design and development, Graeme also actively encourages staff professional development to ensure that JFP remains at the forefront of changes in our dynamic industry.

Recently, we took a moment to ask Graeme some questions about his career, role, and time with JFP.

What is most rewarding about your role?

There are many things I enjoy in my role, from providing input into an urban design process to get a quality design outcome for our clients through to helping guide clients through the maze that is our development approval system. It probably sounds a bit cliche, but one of the most rewarding things
for me is being able to see the results of a development approval process. At the end of the day for me it is about seeing the end product and how the community is living in and using the spaces that we have helped shape. I find it incredibly satisfying to see new residents using the local path network
or patrons enjoying outdoor dining spaces.

What is your favourite project & why?

It is hard to say which project has been my favourite. But I’d say Parkridge Noosa is probably one of my favourite recent projects. The site had been on the market for many years, but had not been developed because of its challenging topography and old planning approvals that made the site a non-viable development option. What was a highly disturbed sloping vacant site has now been transformed into a beautifully landscaped integrated residential  community which includes sweeping views of Lake Weyba and includes terrace homes, apartments and community facilities.

Our planning team at JFP has worked hard to obtain development approvals that have unlocked the site’s potential.  I have really enjoyed working with our client and the project team to help facilitate the site’s evolution into a highly regarded residential community.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career?

Probably the greatest challenge that I have had to overcome is common to a lot of planners in the industry. It is the constantly changing regulatory planning framework.  Since I started my career in 1996, I have seen numerous changes to the planning legislation (Local Government (P& E) Act, IPA, SPA, the current Planning Act, etc, etc), Regional Plans and increasing complexity in related ecological requirements.

Ironically, issues of simplifying Queensland’s planning system, embracing performancebased planning and speeding up development approval process are still as critical today as they were in the 1990s, despite all the planning reforms. Being alert to these legislative and policy changes remains so important for me so that I can continue to give our clients the best advice possible.

Why do you think people tend to stay at JFP for so many years?

I started with JFP over 24 years ago doing voluntary work experience in 1996 as an urban designer under the expert guidance of some great mentors, before transitioning to town planner and department manager over time. So, I am one of the many who have been part of the JFP team for many years. I think there are few reasons why this happens. Personally, I think JFP offers a quality in
its brand that is well respected within the industry and is great to be a part of.

I also think JFP values its people and provides a very stable and well-supported working environment that JFP people genuinely enjoy. It is within that environment that we develop great social and working relationships,
and a collective desire to get the best outcomes possible for our clients.

Do you have any advice for people just starting their career?

The best advice I can give to people starting their career in the development industry is do what you love doing. I started my career having completed a law degree but decided early on that my real interests lay in becoming a town planner and not a lawyer.  Making that switch for me was the right decision, and I continue to enjoy my work in the town planning profession.  So, I would say to someone starting out, do what you enjoy and be open to changing your learning path if that will help you.

The other thing that I would say to a planner starting out in this industry, is ask lots of questions.  Being a good planner usually involves working with a whole range of different professionals including engineers, architects, lawyers and ecologists. The more that you can understand about what these
other disciplines do, the more rounded your knowledge will be and the more you will be able to assist your clients.

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